Tip of the Month
One of the most important skills to develop, for navigating in the mountains, is the ability to visualise the two-dimensional contour lines as a three-dimensional model. This is a major topic on our mountain navigation courses.
The first stumbling block that many people have, however, is in trying to decipher which way is up. For example, is a series of concentric rings of contours representing a summit – or a deep hole? Or, on an open area with lots of parallel contours, which part of the slope is the top and which is the bottom? And what about the V-shapes or U-shapes – when contours bend to form a ‘V’, at that point are they showing a valley or a ridge?
It’s a complicated picture and this skill takes time to practice and master. However, here are three simple clues to look for that will give you a nudge in the right direction.
Numbering sequence. This is the easy one. If there are a set of contours where all the contour numbers are clearly visible (for example 50, 100, 150, 200, 250) then it’s fairly evident that the top of the slope is near the 250m contour and the bottom is near the 50m contour. You can trace these contour lines around the hillside to transfer this understanding to an area where no numbers are shown.
Number orientation. However, sometimes the map maker is short of space and will choose to print to just one contour number in a whole area, meaning that you can’t use the obvious sequence technique. But all is not lost. The number will be printed in such a way that it is printed “the right way up” on the hillside. If I type an imaginary contour line here “—— 350——-” this would indicate that the top of the page is higher up the slope than the bottom of the page. Just try to imagine which way the numbers would be facing if they were actually real features printed on the ground – the top of the numbers is uphill.
Water. We all know that water flows downhill – obviously. So therefore, every water symbol on the map (such as a small stream) must be a lower point than anything else in its immediate vicinity. So if the map shows two parallel streams, then the terrain between the streams must be higher. This simple fact will help you identify which of the V-shapes are valleys or ridges separating the valleys. Try this – place your hand palm-down and spread out the fingers of your hand. Identify the ridges (fingers) and the valleys between them (the spaces), as they run away from the top of your hand (the summit). Where would contour lines be drawn on your fingers? Which way do the V-shaped contours point to represent a valley and a ridge?
Fact of the Month
After the First World War, the Fell and Rock Climbing Club (FRCC) purchased a large part of the Lake District fells in memory of their members who had fallen during the war. This land included 12 major summits and a large amount of land over 1,500ft. The club subsequently handed it over to the National Trust to be kept for walkers and climbers in perpetuity. Every year, on Remembrance Sunday, a ceremony of remembrance is held at the FRCC memorial on the summit of Great Gable. (Important Note: Sadly, for 2020, this ceremony has been cancelled due to Covid-19 so as to discourage large gatherings).
Route of the Month
This month I was out in the Lake District teaching some multi-pitch climbing. I needed an easy route on an amazing crag to both inspire and teach basic skills. We went to Ash Tree Slabs (VDiff, ***) on Gimmer Crag, in Great Langdale. Many of you will know this is probably my favourite UK crag for trad rock-climbing. Ash Tree Slabs starts low down on the crag and provides a relatively easy way to the half-way ledges. It’s well-worth doing in its own right, but from the half-way ledges then there’s plenty more to choose from above.
Photo of the Month
A night-time guided walk in the Lake District took us to the heart of the central fells, the summit of Great End. From here, you can look down in all directions and see the main valley systems of the Lake District. When dawn broke, there were stunning views right over to Derwent Water and Keswick.
These are some of the scheduled events coming up in the near future:
- 7-8 November – NNAS Bronze Navigation Course, Ilkley – places available
- 14 November – NNAS Tutor Course, Ilkley – places available
- 5-6 December – NNAS Bronze Navigation Course, Ilkley – places available
- November-December – Further availability for scrambling, navigation and rope-work courses
- December – Now taking booking for Winter Skills Courses